5 Questions To Ask Yourself When Choosing & Installing A Car Seat For Your Child
85% of the car seats that we see are incorrectly installed! In Canada, the law requires that children be properly restrained in an appropriate car seat or booster seat while travelling in a vehicle. Choosing the right car seat for your child and installing it in your vehicle can be a daunting task, so here are 5 questions you can ask yourself.
1. How do I choose the right car seat?
There is no simple answer to this question. There are over 10 different car seat manufacturers, who each make numerous models of car seats, which are available for purchase in Canada. No one car seat is the perfect seat. The size, height and weight of your child, along with the make and model of your vehicle play a role in determining the most appropriate car seat for you. Children come in all shapes and sizes, so what works for one child may not work well for another.
Always check the height and weight limits of the seat, to make sure it is an appropriate stage seat for your child. If possible, it is always best to “try on” the car seat before purchasing it. This means placing the car seat in your vehicle and harnessing in your child. This will help you to determine whether the seat is a good fit.
2. How much money do I need to spend to keep my child safe?
There is a misconception that the more expensive the car seat, the better it is. This is not the case. All car seats sold in Canada should have passed Transport Canada’s safety testing. This is a pass or fail system. To ensure the car seat has passed this test, please look for the Transport Canada sticker, which you can find on the shell of the seat.
There are several options available for under $100 so there is no need to spend more than that. An inexpensive car seat will still keep your child safe.
3. Are second hand car seats safe?
We highly recommend purchasing a new car seat for your child. Although car seats come with a 10-year expiry date, it does not mean that they can be handed down to someone else. It is highly discouraged to do so as during the time the seat was in the possession of another user, several factors could have come into play. For example: some models of car seats could have had a recall on them due to a defect or could have been involved in a collision which would affect the integrity of the seat. For your child’s safety it is advised to buy a new car seat.
4. How do I properly install a car seat?
The moment has come! You have finally zeroed in on the right car seat and now for the install. Do not worry because your best friend is the car seat manual that comes along with the purchase and your vehicle manual. It is strongly advised that you read the car seat manual carefully before installing the seat, as well as the Child Restraint section in your vehicle manual. If you have misplaced your manuals, please contact the manufacturer directly to have it replaced. Downloading the manual often leads to misinformation as manufacturers make changes from year to year or one model to the next and it is difficult to ensure that you are reading the correct version.
Things to consider:
- Will you use the UAS or seatbelt to install the seat?
- Where in the vehicle will the car seat fit best?
- Does the headrest of the vehicle interfere with the installation?
- Should the seat be rear or forward facing?
- Are there other children or passengers in the vehicle to consider?
5. When is it safe to switch to a booster seat?
There is no hard and fast rule that determines when your child can move to a booster seat. The government of Ontario states that your child must be a minimum of 40lbs in order to use a booster seat. Please keep in mind that this is a minimum. Many children can ride safely in their car seats until 65lbs. There is no need to rush into a booster seat. Best Practise is to make sure that your child is mature enough to use a booster seat, meaning they must be able to sit up straight for the entire duration of the trip. You also need to ensure that a proper seat belt fit can be obtained. If the seatbelt does not fit your child properly, then he/she will not be protected in the event of a collision.
Who knew that car seats could be so complicated?
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The Ottawa Safety Council has developed a program dedicated to helping families and caregivers install their car seats correctly. The Ottawa Safety Council’s BestFit program provides education, resources and custom installs. We are a team of experienced Child Passenger Safety Technicians. We can answer all of your car seat questions, provide peace of mind, and help you find the BestFit for your child.